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NEW: “Tobacco, a catalyst to food security”

15 May, 2024 - 17:05 0 Views
NEW: “Tobacco, a catalyst to food security”

The Sunday Mail

Malvern Mugadzikwa

As the Southern African region has been predicted to become drier due to climate change, tobacco will indirectly contribute to food security in the region by providing finances to purchase foodstuffs.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, said this when he officially opened the World Tobacco Expo in Harare today.

He said tobacco, which is more drought tolerant than the staple maize, will help mitigate drought by contributing to food security through the provision of income to households which can be redeployed for food purchases.

Said Minister Masuka: “Tobacco is an important economic contributor, accounting for up to 90 percent of exports in some African countries and contributing substantially to national GDPs”

Tobacco, Dr Masuka said, was the biggest agricultural export, contributing $1.0 to $1.5 billion annually and the commodity exported to more destinations than any other.

“As a smallholder crop, tobacco production in many African countries directly and indirectly contributes to the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Dr Masuka.

Dr Masuka said Zimbabwe crafted an enviable niche as a world producer of highly sought-after styles of tobacco.

“Of the world’s annual Virginia production of over 3 billion kilogrammes, excluding China’s 2 billion kilogrammes, Africa contributes 400 million kilogrammes. Zimbabwe is the lead producer of Virginia in Africa.

“With a record production of 296 million kilogrammes produced last year, Zimbabwe is arguably the fifth biggest Virginia tobacco producer in the world,” said Dr Masuka.

Dr Masuka highlighted that in Zimbabwe over 160 000 households were directly involved in tobacco production.

Directly and indirectly, 1.5 million, 10 percent of the population, rely on tobacco in Zimbabwe. Some 28 percent of tobacco growers are women.

About 43 percent of tobacco growers are youth, highlighting the industry’s role in providing employment and income-generating opportunities for young people.

Youth participation in tobacco production increased by 7 percent between 2022 and 2023, demonstrating a growing interest among young people in participating in the tobacco sector.

In 2021, the Zimbabwean Government launched the ‘Tobacco Value Chain Transformation Plan in 2021’ to guide the growth of the tobacco farming sector.

The overall goal of the plan is to transform the tobacco industry into a $5 billion industry by 2025 to contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product, in pursuit of President Mnangagwa’s vision 2030 for Zimbabwe.

The plan also focuses on increasing annual production to 300 million kilogrammes, attending to matters of sustainability, traceability and viability, promotion of alternative crops for risk management, increasing value addition and beneficiation and increasing local financing of the production of tobacco.

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